Tuesday, October 31, 2006

2005-11-05 Greenwich 063Blasted man. I've just discovered how easy it is to spend an age reading through posts on Sin's blog - at least read the first posts in Unforgivable Sins. I defy you to avoid resorting to stiff_upper_lip-ism (or in my case clamped teeth, pursed lips and cheeks tensed to hold my eyes taut). But then I've also recently spent an age talking to him, when not inadvertently carrying bookcases. Oh, and being woken by him returning from a nightclub. One would think that after the chicken-tonight incident I would learn not to leave my mobile on overnight, but no, apparently I enjoy frantic buzzing missives which demand I ring him as soon as I wake. I took that to mean as soon as I'm awake enough to converse, so I'll go back to sleep now, thereby also allowing Sin to sleep and possibly sober up, and thus eventually say when contacted "I'm confused" and confuse me with talk of rickshaws.

And as he staked a claim to a phrase I used in conversation, I shall retaliate by pilfering one from his blog, hereafter to be shoehorned shamelessly into any vaguely suitable context:
"Here’s a ladder, now get over yourself."

I know there's a more common variant of that recurrent on his blog*, but I prefer the simple form.

* The idea that he reuses material delightfully allowing me to feel marginally less inept for tacking together the last post by a seemingly unbreaking thread of "somehow", or for my perpetual forest floor approach to writing. His writing means it is no surprise that he is told to put his life into chapters and send it to a publisher, whereas I have been told to put mine into sections; at least, I think that's what the blogfan meant by "you should be sectioned".

But I already knew he is prone to reuse, as indeed am I; I merely have fewer practices hence the result is less polished. Like Shakespeare, classic films and weak Radio 4 comedy, the last so predictable that I end up wondering if I wrote the script in year 8 drama, it can be very hard not to mouth the words in time with the speech. But then, with anecdotes like his, they are worth retelling.

I also find myself concerned if it would seem desperately rude to mention that I have read the current conversational meme on his blog. Thinking of the reaction of others when confronted with recalled blogcontents, perhaps mentioning something the author may not remember writing is not the best way to win friends. For note, I have been known to score over 90% on a test a friend jokingly set about herself, being the only person to score over 60% when the rest of the selection included her current boyfriend. I have also been accused of getting an A in General Studies at A' Level. I have consistently won Trivial Pursuit every time I have played it since I was 11 (although between 11 and 20 I refused to play it, after a spectacularly poor game led to a decade long sulk, on the grounds that I should not be expected to know the answers to anything which happened before I was born. I think it was the expectation that I should know of a Donovan beyond Jason that did it); some may suggest that this was simply because the opponents were either thick, drunk or both.

Yet despite the ability to remember slights suffered by people before I even knew them, which bizarrely might even suggest that for once it is not my fault, I remain regrettably impervious to any form of hint. I wish I could claim stubbornness bars me from following whims and wills not plainly stated, but it is not true. I simply do not notice them. Hints are like the unseasonable butterflies or bees out today; the form attracts attention, the statement noticed, but the fabric passes undetected, unassessed, swept beyond me to whither or moulder unobserved in some ill-divined yet destroying future. I am as sensitive to inward nuances as I am to bee stings; if it gets through I act. Yet the timely transmission of the inner meaning occurs about as often as a butterfly drinks my nectar (I've had them supping on my sweat, but I'm not sure that's relevant).

And yes I have used the flitting of hints elsewhere; disappointing I suspect the original form was better.

I do have to start worrying though; Sin purportedly abhors the misuse of both semicolons and commas. I've only recently learnt to use to former and am not entirely sure how conformist my efforts are (the application of the latter probably oscillates with the tides). But then perhaps that hanging 'are' annoys him equally. I would use the correct term for such structures but can only remember the partial Churchill quote which ends:
"...up with which I shall not put."

If I were cunning I would deliberately misapply punctuation in this post to better claim the flaws as intentional, but I rather fear I may end up unable to differentiate between intentional and basal errors.

This all is a ghastly variation on the original "I went to Sin's house. We talked". It adds verbiage, but little of any use (much like most of what I said). But I'm not sure what else is safe for public consumption. I wilfully pillaged his bookshelves. Our day featured both Thai and Egyptian (one cheese, one edible). I failed to enthral (he multitasks, disconcertingly for me, as my mother also claimed the ability, so I therefore expected him to fall asleep in front of Ski Sunday, in the middle of giving me a hated home haircut, doing marking, top and tailing beans, reading, and claiming to be listening. Obviously the memories are compressed as the idea of runner beans and Ski Sunday occurring in the same part of the year used to be impossible). But if you can persistently suppress the temptation to confiscate his mobile till home time, he is quite a good person to talk to and with.

But that is enough of the Hobbit for now. And now you can see why he is a blasted man, as for once I could think of a decent blogname, yet he already has one. The name incidentally (the use of which thereby suggesting that there might be something in here which is not incidental, although I am not entirely sure what) springs from his toes presumably not growing colder the more it snows, tiddly-pom or no.

So what else? This week had the delight of a proximity-influenced friend informing me that she was coming to stay for the weekend and, oh, which train on Friday would it be best for me to meet? As I don't think I'd even said anything approaching "Oh, do come, you simply must", I'm not quite sure where she got the stay-all-weekend idea from. As it was I had to placate her with the offer of a day. Cue the email to inform me that she will be arriving at 8.50 on Saturday morning. Cue several more emails back suggesting that while the time would be fine for me, I'm not sure it would be for the town. Cue someone else who doesn't take hints (actually, make that "'no' for an answer"). Cue setting an alarm on Saturday, getting up and running to the station through the town. On the way I saw 4 people; 3 of them in uniforms. The only place noticeably open was a butcher's.

So up to the station, with the shock of seeing a car moving, then arriving as the train pulled out, friend waving in best 4-year-old style (I don't mean two-thousand-and-yea-gods-two fashion, I mean full-on feet pointing in, knees together, Moomin-faced, Tubby-bye-bye wave). Smiling through the wince, I gave the merest nod of recognition and was secretly glad it avoided the usual chaos of handshake, hug, kiss, multiple-kiss or any combination thereof.

So where now? The town has yet to stir, so we headed towards the church, where I managed to display an astounding lack of knowledge on both history and religion, save for weak anecdotes. But I was largely concerned with damage limitation, in trying to restrain SG from clambering into the pulpit, bashing organ pipes, mountaineering in the choir or... fortunately the sound of prayer from a side chapel scared her off the idea of Andrex Puppying the altar. Now I understand why some parents use reins.

We beat a hasty retreat, out into the churchyard, where I explain the concept of spires, yew trees, burials, gravestones, tombs, war memorials and ugly 1970s extensions. She recoils in horror when she realises the path flagstones are reclaimed gravestones, leaping onto the grass back, fearful of stepping on the dead. Which is when I helpfully point that actually the bodies are under the grass, and would she mind not dancing on their graves.

Then down to the river and bridges, and weak claims to fame that nearly led me to cheer once while in North Wales. Then into the riverside park, with warnings to avoid the grass (a river runs through it). Round a monument, discussing parts of it, the background to it and the design. I gave up explaining the Delhi connection and that of New Foundland. I also abandoned trying to explain the shifting social acceptability and obligation of greeting complete strangers with "Morning" or "Hello".

Then out of the town past gorse, thistle, rose, nettle, bramble and bracken, describing most as 'fluffy' just to see if she can remember the concept of euphemism. Then onto birches and beeches, willows weeping and pussy, chestnuts including those disturbingly unconkered equine, ash, oak, elder and alder, and no, there is no tree in steak and ale pie (so don't ask; my face at the time attempted to produce shrapnel as eyebrows and jaw repulsed one another).

Onwards along the river, downstream, with complaints about the mud and confusion over moorhens, ducks, geese and swans. Then back up the other side of the valley, discovering that SG hasn't quite got the hang of not getting run over on roads without pavements. She also hasn't quite got the hang of either trying to keep up or at least making sure I know she's standing in the middle of the road staring at a hawthorn somewhere round the last bend.

So back up, with warnings of low flying pheasants, although the usual avian diaspora was disturbing absent. Apparently Shanghai living does not provide contact with many cows, the ability to tell male from female or the distinctive sensation of milking. So not only did I have to convince her that cows are not worth fearing (unless they inhabit a certain field on the Dorset coast, or are actually bulls), then try to explain that the bunch in the field were this year's crop, hence all being quite small (SG said of the smallest one, which happened to the white, "Is that a sheep?"), and that some of udderless are a bit less male than the others (don't whatever you do speak of "the bullocks with the bollocks" in the presence of a non-native English speaker).

Then back into town, through the High Street, failing to provide commentary on the buildings and places, beyond agreeing that even Woolworths is in an old building. Into the museum, round it far too quickly as it's changed since I was last in there (but then I had to stand on tiptoe to peer out of the windows last time; this time I had to crouch). Annoyingly they've junked the models of various bits of artifice, to be replaced with "feel me" lumps of rock from Dorset.

Back downstairs to discover my plan for a cheap lunch forgot to include the charity Christmas cards filling the normal cafe space. Wandering back through the town in hunt of cheap food, I discover I have developed my mother's ability to fail to notice shops changing (she still calls one place Shoppers' Paradise, despite it having about 4 new shops or name changes since then. We won't go into last month's "I've lost the Post Office" debacle) after walking past sandwich shops because they were things like an opticians and thus of no importance at all. Eventually I suggest heading to the next town over, dump SG while I run to get the car, return, collect her, discover she has no idea how to use a seatbelt (not the best thing to discover at the lights behind a policecar), change the plan slightly by heading to a pub in the opposite direction, then find out that she's not all that used to cars, especially not being in the front seat as I trim the passing hedges.

So we arrive in Rural Pub Type Place (I've forgotten the blognames I've used for the pub and the place), having discovered that I've been in London too long, as my ad-libs to other drivers all seem to end in "mate". For example:
"You might want to try signalling, mate. You know, it's that odd clicking stick that gets caught on your cuff."
"If you want a tow, you only have to ask, mate. I've even got a towrope so you don't have to hook your bumper over my towbar."
"I know yo ass is so wide it's still last Thursday on the left cheek, but yo ride ain't that wide, mate."
"I say, would you mind awfully telling your chap with the red flag to buck up a bit? He's damnably slow, mate."

I'm not entirely sure if talking while driving amuses, impresses or petrifies SG. I supposed saying to someone who's never been in a car outside a constant traffic jam "Oh bugger, I'm speeding again. But they shouldn't have changed the speed limit, you can take this corner at at least 60" probably isn't very tactful. Nor is taking the racing line, complete with fun gear changes, a good idea if not strictly necessary (but wide in, narrow out while accelerating is fun and it provided the only chance to read the tailgating van's number plate).

So park outside the pub, slotting between posts. Then SG manages to open the window instead of the door, as she didn't know where the handle was, so instead of asking copied what I did, as I closed my window. Go into the pub, chat to a sibling of GA, greet dog #1, belatedly get excitedly recognised by #1, give a hopeful #2 a "don't you dare" look (she is the only dog stupid enough to consider biting me), which for once she notices, hear faint whimpering behind me, and wonder if I've stood on the paw of the third dog. No, it's just SG being scared of everything, including dogs. She is now convinced everyone in this country owns a dog, as nearly everyone we met that morning had one in tow (but then the only people out early on Saturday are those with dogs agitating to be let out). Earlier I very nearly had to call her to heel when she shied at the sight of two dogs ahead on a track who were very excited about meeting each other. The idea that they were more interested in each other than her didn't seem to sink in.

So after asking GA's sibling to recommend something fairly filling and fairly cheap (long pause, then "did I stump you on the cheap?"), and failing to either be recognised or be served by GA's father, we order then sit down to eat, or rather sit, realise I haven't actually got us drinks (well, er, normally I'm with GA, and they just sort of appear, so I don't have to go through the rigmarole of deciding what I want, getting served, and actually remembering to pay), but I'm driving, and SG's response to drink is in the realm of litmus paper; if it has alcohol in, she's drunk.

So while we chat, dog #1 appears, clambers under the table, head by my thigh, waiting to be stroked. Because we're in a dim part of the pub, and the dog's black, and SG doesn't tend to hang on my every word, she doesn't seem to notice the undertable fumblings, the comments to the dog, or that she's within three feet of what she considers to be the actual apocalypse. Worryingly, dog #1 seems to have abandoned her carpet beater habit, which would have given her presence away (never sit opposite GA when she's greeting #1 as you won't have any shins left). Perhaps it's a result of crowded pub living, but it can't be good.

The food arrives, SG decides she wants what I ordered, while I cheekily get the barman to bring us a couple of pints of water, simultaneously trying not to visualise him naked (there was a calender; I did not have a copy, merely saw one). #1 departs, only to circle the table and come back to curl up under my seat, like a furry Stone of Scone (and just think how different Scottish history would be if they'd used enough baking powder).

We finish and depart, having failed with the immersion (or submersion) technique of treating cynophobia. Into Notacity, parking on the Point because not only is it free even on a Saturday (it's up a steep hill, barring even the kitten-heeled), but because it provides a sweeping view over to the north, across Notacity, towards to grey towers of Stirfried, and on a better day Hedgerow and Undone. Then into town, where SG complains about having come down a hill to go up a hill, to which I suggest she visits Exeter. Into a carpark, because it's got a different view and you get to point and laugh at those atop two old buildings, sharing the same view, where both other sets had to pay for the privilege, and one gets to enjoy it from a small cage, the other under the theatrical guidance of a namebadged man in a painful jumper. Back down via different alleys, down the other street in town, and into Khaki and Blue, because the museum would have closed and to be honest, I've completely run out of ideas, and it can't hurt to browse. SG isn't exactly overjoyed, but there's only so much one can do with pretty buildings.

So we wander, she shocked that she could find herself looking at a £400 jacket (and...?) then was so infantile I headed in the opposite direction to flirt with shop assistants in the hope that no one will notice I brought in the loon who is in profound wonderment at the endless array of Christmas ornaments. I'd already said I'd shoot her if she bought a white, mother of pearl Christmas tree. And it's quite surprising, considering how I actually look, just how quickly a department store can turn me into a style fascist. It's all sotto-voce bitchicisms and disappointed frowns that anyone could display such rank poor taste. I remember someone in H&M in Exeter getting quite miffed when he saw me disapproving of the sunglasses he was trying on, despite it only being a fleeting reaction. They didn't suit him, and he didn't buy them, but I think he was upset by my lack of pokerface. The only problem is when I forget to control my face while walking out through the make-up department, where the "oh dear" is all too easily communicated. Green eyeshadow really isn't attractive when it runs in the tears.

And it must say something about the way SG carries herself that for once there was not one asthma-inducing sample. Even when I'm on my own, in full Moses charge, I still get them trying to offer sprays (which as I'm a badly dressed male, who has never owned anything bought purely to add smell - the nearest I've got is shaving oil, and that only adds the tang of overspiced Christmas cake - does reflect both the perfume sellers' desperation and how they perceive SG). It might also be worth noting that she was wearing a Burberry trimmed coat over a coarsely knitted v-neck tanktop in navy and maroon on top of a Victoriana blouse in a pattern best described as Lowra Ashley. There's a fine, fine line between trendsetting and trainspotting.

I told you department stores make me into a bitch (ok, more accurately 'bring out the bitch'). How does one deal with people where a single look in their direction brings up an internal monologue ending in "...but at least I try". Said he presently wearing clothes too painful to describe.

Back into the street, towards to station with dismay upon noticing that Fopp are imminent (in a really bad site). It's bad enough they spread to TCR from Camden (please don't point out it's a national chain), but that's nearly as upsetting as Wagamama opening a Notacity branch. It means the small Londonisms are no longer Londonisms. What next? A club called G-U-Y opening near the end of Old Cobham Street?

So abandoning SG at the station, parting with a great distance already between us, I run back up the Point, to move the car before the world's fittest traffic warden tickets me for being two minutes late. Then back to Tweeton, for low and anticlimatic fireworks (the bangs as they took off were louder than the final explosions) while wondering quite what it is about public school children that makes them so brattish and their parents so charmlessly repulsive. And yes, there was a mêlée in the car park on leaving, as the natural snaking filter-in-turns collapsed once one crucial line of cars departed. It is as if they intentionally breed individualists; people solely designed to escape the lesser mortals in squeal of Mercedes silver on Porsche Cayenne black.

Which reminds me that Sin mentioned seeing an Arab man in Bentley bearing the registration "OIL", which one either hopes is his initials, or a note to remind him to check the levels the next time he gets petrol. While I cannot top that, I have seen something very similar in the form of a keffiyahed driver sitting in front of a smoked partition, attempting to swing something black, fat, and probably without reverse gear round the streets of London (including the pavements) with a number plate that ended "710", which was either pure coincidence or a slightly geeky lapse of taste (perhaps he worked for 77345). It is a pity some people would only twig when he rolled the thing.

Carrying on the Sin theme, he, and his chattels, do wonders for my vocabulary. It's odd that when I was with him I was incoherently groping for words, all rendered at safe-cracking speed or Dopplered into one whitenoise of a word. Yet with SG, and this is possibly as a result of her foreigness, my voice is far more grand, wonderfully enunciated, taking on the booming and sweeping vowels of Sin, becoming more prone to eloquence. I wonder how much of that is because the style of the message is the inverse of the substance. With Sin, it matters. There are endless jests and quips, but there's more communication going on than ever really occurs with SG. With SG either I'm explaining how to hold a fork, or how to kiss, or how to milk a cow, or how to gain confidence or how the clutch works, or I'm listening to an endless list of the ailments of her life, while occasionally finding that I'm channelling Mrs Butler. It's nothing really that Google cannot answer. Actually I suppose the same might be said of Sin, but he allows me to think of the right way of asking the question (even if it is not always the right question).

Anyway, that all is grossly incidental, as I was attempting to bring in reference to Stephen Fry's autobiography, Moab is my Washpot, which I gleaned from Sin's packing, along with half a dozen or so other books. Basically, I went to visit him on page 37 of Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie and several days later I remain on page 37 in one book and beyond 436 in the other.

Not only is it beguiling and engaging, with so many areas in need of quotation that I may as well list the bits fractionally less worth reading for brevity, but it does have an [...egregious? no. ...arrant? not quite... some vowel-word] tendency to send me scrabbling for a dictionary, or at least to scrawl them down to investigate later (albeit often inscribing punctiliously to better allow examination than scrawling). I have a third of an envelope of words for checking, although two of which are not from the book:
arrant, rorty, abjure, ratiocinating, ludic, agape (2), palliate, succubus (and thereby finally discovering what 'incubus' means, with Ghostbusters bonus points. I wonder what other -buses exist).

Those are simply words I did not know rather than those ill-remembered and damp with disuse as 'argot' and 'lissom'.

I still don't understand the Moab reference.

But that had better be it, as 'tis Halloween, and thus I, like all extant souls, am going to make damn sure I will not be in when the beggars-with-menaces appear (oddly, there seems to be very little awareness of the pumpkin code on this side of the West Sea), having failed to convince the trick-or-treaters last year that I was exempt by claiming to be Buddhist (well, if they have no saints, then All Saints/Hallowed Souls Day cannot exist and so there can be no evening before it).


PS. Wah! My window just flew open!
It could just be that I hadn't shut it properly and there was a gust. Cue:
It was a dark and stormy night...

Stephen Fry is indeed a genius. And, having once quite literally bumped into in Soho, also very tall and surprisingly big. And with more than a touch of the Oscar Wilde's...

Of course, Sin maybe a genius too - the quality of his writing has led me to sort of miss him even though I've never met him.
What an odd thing to say about Sin, and strangely I think I completely understand.
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